Human Behavior in the Social Environment (SWK 5223)

A course at the University of Oklahoma Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work taught by Carrie Jankowski, MSSW, LCSW

Author: Christina Wyatt (Page 2 of 2)

BP 3

When examining the trend of decreasing play activity at school in exchange for a more academically focused curriculum, it’s important to consider how it may possibly affect a child’s development. We’ve learned that preschool age children are in the beginning stages of developing skills such as self-regulation, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Play time allows for the continued development of these executive functions and are often assessed by teachers in the classroom setting. Using assessment tools, it’s possible for teachers to observe and assess where a child is cognitively. For example, if a teacher observes a child playing with objects without the ability to use these objects as symbols (e.g. a marble becoming a car), the teacher could possibly assume the child is at the earliest stage of play. After learning a child’s level of play, scaffolding is used to help propel the child to a more advanced stage of play. Scaffolding refers to using a more capable person to essentially prompt another into higher levels of thinking. With the use of scaffolding, playtime in the early years allows children to also develop their advanced problem solving skills. Let’s say there is one object desired by two children in a classroom. In this situation, prompts from the teacher can enable the children to use language to negotiate possibly taking turns.  As children grow and advance through grades in school, the importance of this playtime decreases because kids are under enormous amounts of pressure to pass tests. This has been observed by the change in school curricula across the country. Devaluing the use of play can inhibit the continued development of cognitive flexibility. To combat this, I feel that schools should perhaps expand programs that involve play-like activities (e.g. music, art) to promote enrichment in all areas of academics.

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